Welcome News For The Distressed Sinner!

Sibbes was not against Christ being an example for us, but he emphasized that “the main comfort we receive from Christ is by way of [his] satisfaction.”

“Certainly we shall never be finally and wholly forsaken, because Christ was forsaken for us. Now we may think of God without discomfort, and of sin without despair. Now we may think of the law of death, the curse and all, and never be terrified – why? Christ our surety hath given full content of divine justice for wrath and law, sin and curse, etc. They are all links of one chain, and Christ hath dissolved them all. Now sin ceaseth, wrath ceaseth, the law hath nothing to lay to our charge; death’s sting is pulled out.”

 

Around 1630 Richard Sibbes wrote a great little booklet on the gospel called Christ’s Sufferings For Man’s SinIt’s found in volume one of his Works.  In one section of this booklet Sibbes talked about Christ as an example of holiness and obedience.  Sibbes was not against Christ being an example for us, but he emphasized that “the main comfort we receive from Christ is by way of [his] satisfaction.”  He quoted Bernard:

“I desire indeed to follow Christ as an example of humility, patience, self-denial, etc., and to love him with the same affection that he hath loved me; but I must eat of the Passover-Lamb, that is, I must chiefly feed on Christ dying for my sins”

Sibbes explained this in more detail:

So every true Christian soul desires to follow Christ’s obedience, humility, patience, etc., and to be transformed into the likeness of his blessed Savior. Whom should I desire to be like more than him, that hath done so much for me?

But yet the main comfort I receive from Christ, is by eating his body and drinking his blood; my soul feeds and feasts itself most of all upon the death of Christ, as satisfying for my sins. And what a comfort is it that Christ being our surety, hath made full satisfaction for all our sins. Certainly we shall never be finally and wholly forsaken, because Christ was forsaken for us. Now we may think of God without discomfort, and of sin without despair. Now we may think of the law of death, the curse and all, and never be terrified – why? Christ our surety hath given full content of divine justice for wrath and law, sin and curse, etc. They are all links of one chain, and Christ hath dissolved them all. Now sin ceaseth, wrath ceaseth, the law hath nothing to lay to our charge; death’s sting is pulled out.

How comfortably, therefore, may we appear before God’s tribunal! Oh, beloved, when the soul is brought as low as hell almost, then this consideration will be sweet, that Christ was forsaken as a surety for me; Christ overcame sin, death, God’s wrath, and all for me; in him I triumph over all these. What welcome news is this to a distressed sinner! Whenever thy soul is truly humbled in the sense of sin, look not at sin in thy conscience (thy conscience is a bed for another to lodge in), but at Christ. If thou be a broken-hearted sinner, see thy sins in Christ thy Savior taken away; see what he hath endured and suffered for them; see not the law in thy conscience, but see it discharged by Christ; see death disarmed through him, and made an entrance into a better life for thee. Whatsoever is ill, see it in Christ before thou seest it in thyself; and when thou beholdest it there, see not only the hurt thereof taken away, but all good made over to thee; for ‘all things work together for the best to them that love God,’ Rom. 8:28

Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 357–358.

Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.